The Wills Act 1837 (Electronic Communications) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Order 2020 has been laid before Parliament this week, extending the definition of "presence" to allow the witnessing of Wills to take place via "videoconference or other visual transmission" for a temporary and retrospective period from 31 January 2020 to 31 January 2022.
Our advice (and Government guidance) is that video-witnessed wills should remain a last resort and people must continue to arrange physical witnessing of wills where it is safe to do so.
Law Society president Simon Davis cautiously welcomed the government’s decision.
He said: ‘Both probate solicitors and the public will need greater clarity on when remote witnessing is appropriate and what to do in exceptional circumstances – such as if the testator dies while the will is being sent to a witness’ address for them to sign.
‘In the long term, wider reform of the Wills Act is needed to bring it into the 21st century. We will continue to explore the viability of giving judges dispensing powers to recognise the deceased’s intentions where strict formalities for making a valid will have not been followed but whatever reforms are introduced, the public should continue to seek professional advice when making a will.’